Wednesday, February 22, 2006

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
Zyang Ziyi, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Mako, Suzuka Ohgo, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Koji Yakusho

Shang Cineplex, Cinema 1

A geisha is an artist

I certainly remember loving the book but I read it a long time ago I might need to re-read it one of these days. That is, if I can find it. But this is certainly a case of "Do not judge a book by its movie". I believe the director who gave us the film version of the hit musical "Chicago", Rob Marshall shortchanged us. He fed us a Western idea of what a geisha is supposed to be. The film lacked a certain poignancy which could have been achieved if the entire film was shown in the Japanese language with English subtitles. The fact that they chose Chinese actresses to talk in English and make us believe that they were Japanese is very distracting. First, we all know that English is their second language. Second, their thick accent and enunciation of certain words totally ruined the beautiful dialogue from the book. But don't get me wrong, I think that Zyang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li are very talented artists. It is just unfortunate that they were given roles which didn't really flesh out their intricate characters. And despite the fact that they are Asians, the film lacked a certain 'Oriental' flair to it. Sure, the scenes are very authentically portrayed. The backdrop is uniquely Japanese and very panoramic yet somehow you cannot escape the fact that these are just sets from a California studio. I remember in the book I was very moved by the love story aspect between Sayuri and the Chairman. How her love for him endures throughout the years. A very deep love that is clearly forbidden which makes it very tragically sad. But in the movie, I didn't feel much chemistry between Zyang Ziyi and Ken Watanabe. I could go on and on about the inadequacies of this film because I was clearly disappointed. But in some way, I guess it is difficult for any director whether Asian or Western to come up with a genuine film version of a book that clearly deals with a very mystical and mysterious subject matter, the Geisha. I suppose we should salute the entire cast for their effort. But I'm sure they could have done much better!

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